LOTRO Legendarium: Analyzing the 2021 LOTRO producer letter

    
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Despite the title of the “February 2021” producer’s letter, Standing Stone Games’ official annual roadmap was welcomed when it arrived last week. In March. Anyway, it’s here, and as always, that means we have a whole lot to talk about as we look ahead to what Lord of the Rings Online has in store for us this year.

My very first impressions of this letter is how unsurprising it is. Since SSG has been upping its comms these past few months (no complaint here), a lot of the items in this letter have already been revealed in past Q&As and other interviews. Still, I think it’s very useful to have all of the pertinent news bundled up and presented like this. So let’s dig into it!

Instead of past years when Ciccolini would bounce around from topic to topic in his letter, this year’s producer’s letter is a very straight-forward schedule of coming content and events for LOTRO. It starts with this month’s Wildwood update and goes on through the fall’s Gundabad expansion. We’re looking to get about four content drops of varying size this year, which seems to me to be a good amount.

The new addition for the Spring Festival — apparently starring grumpy Grimbeorn — intrigues me, as this is the one holiday event that I typically avoid due to a lack of enjoyable activities. I’m not going to get my hopes up too high, but if SSG can deliver a fun repeatable event that pays out in tokens, then I am on board.

What I’m most intrigued about are the new “Further Adventures” that the dev team is making. From what I understand, these are level-agnostic quests or quest chains that will give us new storylines to pursue, perhaps akin to what we did with Bingo Boffin.

I think it’s a fantastic way to reuse zones and resources, and the level-scaling might allow players of different levels to team up and have some fun together. The mission tech that came out last fall didn’t get the best of reviews due to the missions themselves being kind of dull, but I think the idea is solid. Good on SSG for pushing it forward and being open to doing more of these adventures.

It’s not hard to read between the lines of this letter and see that SSG is still smarting at the spanking that the community and press gave it over the so-called “mini-expansion” of this past fall. While the studio isn’t ruling out future mandatory paid content releases, it’s certainly going out of its way to point out that Updates 29 and 30 are going to be free to subscribers.

And I do like that there’s going to be a big fat content update over the summer. Not only does this give content-tapped players something new to do, but it also helps drum up interest in the Gundabad expansion. Let me ask you, are you excited about Gundabad? Because I’m as lukewarm as can be. I won’t hate seeing it arrive, but so far I haven’t been set on fire by this storyline or what little SSG has said about the fall expansion.

Speaking of which, if you were hoping to hear SSG spill more details about Gundabad, then this was not the letter for you. The only information we got about it is that this will wrap up the Dwarf vs. Orc storyline. I get wanting to keep some big reveals for later, but c’mon guys, you could have dropped a morsel or two to whet the appetite of the community. This letter seems more lukewarm about the expansion than I am.

In the concluding paragraphs, there was a small assortment of different items. The legendary servers, which SSG does not talk about much these days, is definintely going into Mordor and perhaps beyond in 2021. I was mildly surprised to see the studio state that they’re putting a priority on getting some PvMP work done. I’m sure the few players who engage in that side of the game are excited about this, but PvMP is not of interest to a vast majority of the playerbase. Honestly, I’m surprised SSG hasn’t given up on it entirely.

The most unfortunate thing about this letter is how it concludes, which is with a very rushed and unsatisfying statement about legendary items. SSG didn’t even commit to the promised overhaul or revamp, electing instead to say that it just wants to speed up LI leveling. Well, whoop-dee-do. This is a core system that affects every dang player over 40, but you go ahead and keep pushing off that revamp. It’s so beyond procrastinating that it’s embarrassing — and frustrating.

It’s also slightly notable that we didn’t hear anything in this letter about the Brawler, River-hobbits, additional server rulesets, server merges, dead character transfers, or class balance (although, to be fair, SSG has talked about all of those in previous Q&As). We also didn’t get anything official here about the effects of EG7’s purchase and funding.

All in all, it’s an OK letter. There’s a lot of content coming and some of it looks pretty interesting. We’re going to have to suck up another year of the cruddy LI system. And SSG continues to play its communication very close to the chest. In other words, 2021 is going to be a fine if not exceptional year for LOTRO.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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Stormsong Minstrel
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Stormsong Minstrel

You are going to buy a car. Seller tells you about this nice town with its old streets, fantastic views from local mountain, that perfect feeling when 263 species of birds sing in your blossoming garden – and not to forget, the sea is nearby, so it’s perfect place for yoga or jogging. Good, impressive – yet what about car itself?
What does Lotro developers say?
1. New content
2. LI grind stays
3. Some festival updates
4. Some PvMP updates.
Now, to most important:
1. No word about class updates or new classes
2. No word about fighting lag, chat disconnect, buggy quests
3. No word about improving players’ quality of life
4. No word that “mini-expansions” are history and would never reappear
5. No word that crafting would be made of importance
6. Oh, no words that VIPs would have value of VIP increased.

As a casual player, I do not find any feeling about exciting year. New content, new grind for the sake of grind. New tokens for the sake of having new tokens (look at Gabillaka tokens and nowhere to spend them). I would really liked to hear about planes to reduce grind, to fix servers, fix bugs known to developers, improving quality of life, improving crafting system…
Nothing of that. Just childish joy “me strong, me have one new zone, my life is exciting”. While appearance of grumpy Beorn is good (always liked them!) – it does not solve hundreds of problems Lotro faces.

And developers clearly shown zero wish to correct existing problems. Instead – “me have new zone, me is strong, me Hulk me smash”.

Disappointing year await us in Lotro, if developers stick to their words. New zones, yet no care about players outside PvP. House is burning, house owner cares that selfies with fire in background gets more likes. Exciting..;.

cambruin
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cambruin

Exactly.

More promises soon to be broken, hardly any of the concerns by the community adressed, none of the hot topics discussed or mentioned. Absolutely nothing to look forward to. They just keep piling more and more onto a forever-more crumbling foundation.

What people want is grind reduction. What they ask for is server stability. Legendary items revamp has been pushed back for what feels like a decade now.

But we’re getting a new class… great. Something to take from 1 tot 130, something requiring yet another LI grind. But they have us covered, fear not. It’ll probably come with a pack to buy a lvl cap boost as well as a ‘sale’ on Valars, XP boosters en LI reduction. Absolutely no one asked for this.
Events, while fun every so often, are the same year in, year out. Revamping them will make them interesting for one single time, a lifespan of 3-4 or so weeks, all of their content consumed in just an hour on the first playthrough, but the year after it’ll be the exact same event. The same repetitive content.
New content… on servers which can’t handle it.
PvMP updates.. One needs only search for PVMP on youtube to realize what sad state it is in, and as it’s tied to a subscription, thus locking the vast majority of players who want to PvP on their actual char out of the content and it won’t get better by assigning ‘a designer who has regular time set aside for ongoing development work’. Who is this ‘designer’ even?

And an expansion? Who cares about their expansions? Look at their track record; Mordor, Minas Morgul and most recently War of the Three Peaks. Each and every one of them failing even harder than it’s predecessor.

Another year of absolutely nothing.

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2Ton Gamer

Even with the promise of new content this year I think it says a lot that the thing that sounds the best is the new springfest bit. LOTRO’s festivals are for the most part very well done and has been the reason I have come back over the years, but I still will not be touching the game this year. There’s nothing of interest for in this letter and I could care less about the new race or class because they’ve done such a pathetic job at bringing new classes/races in the past and still have people asking for their fav classes to be fixed (Guardian anyone?). Everything about their news, and little Q&A’s just screams cashgrab instead of making the game better. Here’s a new level cap, but nevermind about LI’s. Here’s a new zone, but forget about the laggy mess that some of our other zones have.

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MrReaper

The PvP base may not be every player but if it had been shown some little respect over the years it would of remained a generous %, all who would of been subs.

Legendary weapons will go down as one of the biggest mistakes for not changing years ago when the cracks were showing. SSG have even made this worse for talking about a revamp years ago and very questionable changes since.

It will be 140 by end of year, 150 next and so on these letters could pretty much be copied and pasted.

Skip 1 content each year and get everyone to work on the actual issues, legendary, PvP, balance, quality of life. Probably make more money from this then content because players may even come back.

My hands up also to see a max level decrease, let’s go back to 50 or 60.

Regards been there from the start and still here, but no longer bother with anything after level 80-90. Long live Lotro Shadows of Angmar, moria was good but nothing has been better then the release.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

I get that they want to put out content for the steadfast players.

But the MMO drought is bringing a lot of new and returning players to LOTRO. I can tell by World chat. The “I’m back after 10 years” and “new to the game, how do you?” which dominates the weekend chat.

And that LI wall is a killer. Not just to new players but players, like me, who have been playing for years and have many alts. I can’t even consider leveling more than 2 or 3 because even for a veteran grinder like me, it is simply too much. I can get one character through 2 plus hours of token dailies and then I just want to, you know, go play the game. Doing it on more than one at a time is absurd.

My eyes, therefore, latch on the phrase “LI leveling”. What does he mean by that? Does he mean making it easier to get scrolls to level imbued LI traits? Or does he mean just LI XP? If the latter, then that’s window dressing and really a waste of developer time. There are plenty of ways to get LI XP. Right now what the game needs are better; i.e., more fun, ways to gain scrolls to increase imbued LI levels.

The problem for SSG as I see it, is that the current LI mechanic pushes people toward the store. There’s a massive grind for Star-lit crystals to increase LI level and then Anfalas scrolls to increase trait levels. Even fun things like festivals are massive grind-fests for tokens to get LI items. And this repetitive never ending grind can all go away by buying these two items in the store.

When you consider that top players generally have 3 or 4 or more LIs instead of a simple 2, the financial hit to SSG to make leveling imbued LIs easier or more attainable has got to be a factor in their redesign.

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Michael18

But are LIs even that important?

I usually ignore my LI entirely and never feel underpowered*. Only after completing all current quest content and only if I’m in the mood for some grinding for a few days I get around to leveling my LI. And every time I did this over the past few years I had the impression that afterwards I could not notice a significant increase in overall power and survivability of my character. Of course this might be different when raiding a lot or doing top-tier dungeons on max level, but that’s just a tiny fraction of the player base and even those players are not doing that with alts (I guess?).

So it seems to me that for someone who wants to enjoy the world and story content, the LI does not matter all that much, esp. for new players on their first trip to max level.

(* except for the Mordor zones at release, maybe)

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Vincent Clark

“But are LIs even that important?”

Does your main currently have an LI equipped?
Does SSG provide a viable alternative to LI weapons/items or do they instead offer to speed up progression of the LI weapon via the store (i.e. spending real money)?

Of course they are important.

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aeasus .

I can’t stand the LI system. Crafting is useless post level 105 with the exception of consumables. The only end game are loot chests from top tier raids that only balanced classes/skill trees have a chance to participate in. Which is exasperating the PVMP problem.

It’s a huge world with some great story telling that’s suffering from the rot of pay to win.

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aeasus .

LIs are the worst thing that ever came out of the Moria expansion.

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Louie

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a worse gearing system in an MMO before. LIs being the be all end all is awful, and especially compounded not only by the urging to the cash shop, but SSG’s sheer inability to actually explain how it works to a new player in the first place.